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By Chris Cooke | Posted on Thursday, April 22, 2021
An alliance of trade groups representing copyright industries – including the music sector – has called on the European Union to strengthen part of its proposed digital services law that would require internet companies to do more to confirm the identity of their business customers.
The DSA is currently only proposing to introduce new obligations in this area for online marketplaces. Copyright industries believe that this should also apply to other Internet intermediaries who might provide domain names, server space, advertising or payment services to business customers who might, for example, operate copyright infringing websites.
The open letter to the European Parliament and the Council of the EU was organized by a coalition of professional groups in the copyright industry called Know Your Business Customer.
He argues that, since Internet intermediaries often do not properly verify the identity of their customers, malicious operators can then use the services of these intermediaries anonymously. This then makes it much more difficult for copyright owners or law enforcement agencies to initiate civil or criminal proceedings against these dishonest operators.
Describing its main campaign goals, KYCB says, “Requiring business entities to reveal their true identities on the Internet would automatically reduce illegal content online and greatly facilitate efforts by consumers and corporate clients to seek redress.”
This requirement already exists in European law via Article Five of the 2000 EU Electronic Commerce Directive, but it is obvious that dishonest operators ignore this obligation. So what the KYCB Group wants is for otherwise legitimate Internet intermediaries to remove the services of those rogue operators who do not reveal their true identities online.
The open letter – signed by music industry groups like IFPI, IMPALA, ICMP and BPI – says: “In a responsible and mature economy, businesses should not be able to operate and have access to the necessary modern infrastructure that Europe has to offer without precisely identifying themselves “.
“This applies to both the offline world and the online world, which is why, in 2000, legislation introduced the obligation for companies to identify themselves on their websites. Unfortunately – and not surprisingly – companies that intend to profit from illegal content do not respect this obligation and do not suffer the consequences ”.
Noting the proposed ‘know your business client’ requirement already included in the digital services bill, the letter says this proposal is a ‘step forward’, but it ‘only introduces KYBC obligations into the context of online marketplaces ”.
“Such a limited approach is a missed opportunity to tackle the wide range of illegal content and counterfeit, dangerous, non-compliant and substandard products online. The DSA represents a real opportunity to rectify a situation which allows bad actors to ignore article five of the DPE with complete impunity ”.
“A business cannot connect without a domain name, without being hosted, or without advertising or payment services,” the letter continued. “These intermediary services, in direct relation with the company, are therefore the best placed to ensure that only companies wishing to comply with the law have access to their services”.
“It’s not about monitoring the behavior of their professional clients, but simply asking them to identify themselves and apply simple due diligence checks on the database available to the public,” he adds. . “If the information provided turns out to be manifestly incorrect or if the intermediary is informed that the professional client is not who he claims to be, the intermediary must cease providing services until the professional client remedies to the situation ”.
The campaign group notes that rogue operators exploiting their online anonymity have an impact beyond conventional hacking, although obviously making it easier to tackle online crime is a key goal. But, he said, that anonymity has been exploited by “operators of fraudulent websites and operators of online services distributing illegal content, including, but not limited to substandard or falsified drugs, drugs, etc. sexual abuse material, counterfeits, malware, illegal gambling, hacking and more. “
“These illegal activities can seriously harm the physical, psychological and financial well-being of EU citizens,” the letter concludes. “In some cases, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, they can even pose a threat to life. All these operators and all intermediary service providers enabling them to operate should be subject to the KYBC provisions ”.
“The law on digital services is an opportunity for the [European Parliament and EU Council] to remedy these shortcomings of the ECD. We therefore urge you to ensure that all intermediaries – not just online marketplaces – know who their business customers really are ”.